Frederick Francis, an emeritus professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has been elected chairman of the board of directors at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). The council is a nonprofit consumer education and public health consortium made up of scientists and physicians.

The author of more than 300 technical papers and seven books, Francis has received several national and international awards for excellence in science. But, he says, the general public does not recognize him for these scientific contributions. Instead, he is generally known as the man who grew the world's largest philodendron.

"Oh, Lord," says Francis, with a laugh. "I work all my life as a hard-working scientist; I do something frivolous, and that is what people pick up."

Francis raised his philodendron for 33 years, until it grew to a record 1,114 feet long. "I then sent it to...

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